The COVID-19 Fund finances new projects in virus detection, diagnosis and epidemiological surveillance

These three new studies focus, respectively, on airborne virus identification in healthcare facilities, a new approach to diagnosing COVID-19, and technology to amplify the virus's genetic information.

The first of the projects is coordinated by the Severo Ochoa Center for Molecular Biology (CBMSO), a joint center of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Autonomous University of Madrid, in collaboration with the Health Research Institute of the La Paz Hospital (IdiPAZ), the Severo Ochoa Hospital, the IMDEA Nanoscience center, the ISCIII and the ISGlobal. Its objective is to use sampling equipment to locate the virus in the air in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and health centers. In a first phase, the aim is to better understand the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the air, and in a second phase, a new technology would be incorporated to optimize detection and improve epidemiological surveillance, incorporating sampling stations in urban environments and infrastructure. transport, among other locations.

The second investigation is coordinated by the Aragonese Institute of Health Sciences (IACS) and seeks an alternative to diagnosis, studying the search for fragments of the virus in small vesicles found in the blood, called exosomes. If the presence of viral fragments in the exosomes were evident in the early stages of the disease, it would be possible to develop new diagnostic tests based on this analysis. In essence, this project explores early diagnosis solutions in blood to provide alternatives to the variability that, sometimes, the current diagnostic standard can offer, which is carried out by removing mucous samples from the nose or pharynx.

Finally, the third investigation is coordinated by the Severo Ochoa Center for Molecular Biology (CBMSO) and the National Center for Oncological Research (CNIO). The project starts from the use of the phage Phi29 – to which the recently deceased Spanish scientist Margarita Salas dedicated a large part of her career – as the basis of a new strategy to more rapidly amplify the SARS-CoV-2 sequences. With this strategy, the virus could be detected in less than an hour, using a simple technique and without the need for specialized equipment, which would facilitate the mass detection of infected people, including asymptomatic cases.

First month of the COVID19 Fund

The COVID-19 Fund, which has 24 million euros, has financed 18 projects since it was created a month ago, and in the near future it will announce the approval of more research aimed at improving the short-term management of the virus and the disease. So far, the ISCIII has received more than 1,300 requests from all over Spain.

The Fund has financed projects that explore the best available treatment, with the aim of giving scientific solidity to the clinical decisions on which the different treatments used are based. It has also promoted clinical trials aimed at reducing the risk of infection in risk populations, and has opted for the development of technologies that allow reducing the time until diagnosis. In addition, it has selected projects whose objective is the identification of the virus in hospital or urban settings, among other lines of research.

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